THE CBH Group is at a crossroads and needs to focus on its core business of storage and handling to return more value to its 4200 growers.
That’s the view of Bruce Rock farmer Stephen Strange who believes his 43-year farming career and comprehensive industry and community leadership experience will ensure the co-operative is in safe hands if he is elected to the vacant District 3 position on the CBH board.
With his wife Karen, son Leigh and daughter-in-law De-Anne, Mr Strange runs a 4000 hectare mixed-cropping program which spans across the Bruce Rock, Quairading and Kellerberrin Shires.
The third-generation farmer heads into the election with a myriad of leadership credentials including 20 years as the Shire of Bruce Rock president.
Mr Strange holds positions as chairman of the WA Local Government Association Freight Policy Forum and the Local Government Agricultural Freight Group, and is an active member of the Rail Retention Alliance and a delegate of the Freight Logistics Council.
In addition he is an Australian Rural Leadership Foundation fellow.
“With the experience I’ve had in the industry and also my community local government experience at a regional and State level, I think I’ve got a lot to bring to the board,” Mr Strange said.
“We’re onto something special at the moment with agriculture - particularly grain – in that we’ve got a group of farmers between 25 and 45 years of age who have really grabbed science and technology by the scruff of the neck and that inspires me.
“I’ve got plenty of petrol in the tank and I’m itching to have a crack at it.”
If his election campaign is successful, Mr Strange plans to focus on ensuring CBH’s Network Strategy is rolled out efficiently and economically.
While he agrees with the overall strategy he said there was still plenty of room for improvement.
“I deliver the grain from our farm to 10 sites and what we did see this year was congestion, upgrades that hadn’t been done, and the double handling of grain,” Mr Strange said.
“I attended a CBH grower meeting in York in December – which is a receival site I deliver grain to – around 40 farmers attended and were showing their frustration about the congestion, turn-around time and the lack of facilities promised.
“The Beverley growers who attended believed they had been short-changed in the Network Strategy so far.
“We have to be very careful that the investment made into those larger sites has to happen before the smaller sites close.
“I think that is paramount because the company’s performance will be judged on storage and handling by its growers who are under enormous pressure to get our very valuable crop from the paddock to the storage point as efficiently, economically and safely as possible.”
In order for this to occur Mr Strange has suggested investing a portion of the storage and handling rebate back into the network.
He said while the rebate was welcomed by growers, the money could be better directed.
“We’ve seen a fairly big rebate in the last year come through and everyone is very keen for that to happen but there has to be some consistency there,” Mr Strange said.
“We get a rebate but in actual fact it’s a cost shift because we’re carting further, so that rebate is chewed up very quickly.
“I for one – and I know others feel the same – would be more than happy to take less of a rebate and fast-track the Network Strategy.
“The CBH Group is at the crossroads now and that area of the business has to be looked after, that’s our priority and we have to get that right before we do anything else.”
Mr Strange said while the co-operative faced several challenges including greater competition and the increased use of on-farm storage, there were plenty of opportunities on the horizon for the CBH Group and its growers.
With strong strategic planning skills, solid experience in finance and a large network gained from previous and current roles, Mr Strange believes he has a lot to bring to the CBH board if elected.
“It is important to have a vision, I have the skills and the ability to step back and have a look at everything with a broad mind,” he said.
“With my experience I can bring different facets together to improve the connection between local government, grain growers, lobby groups and CBH.
“I have a broad experience and I can bring that to the table.
“I have a network that will certainly help the board.
“I have the passion for our industry and particularly grain growing and the will to commit the time necessary to help make our co-operative stronger to create and return value to the growers.”
Mr Strange is a farmer who has nominated for the 2018 CBH Group Grower Members Director Elections in District 3, seeking election in the seat held by Pingelly farmer John Hassell who has not renominated.